Monday, April 25, 2016

Address by General Secretary, Cde Blade Nzimande at the People`s March
23 April 2016, Durban

Let us advance our own struggles as the working class: No other class will fight for our interests!!

As the two leading worker and working class formations of our country, we are gathered here to say it is time for the working class to raise its voice and start a process of intensified mobilisation to give more energy to driving the second more radical phase of our transition. The capitalist class (both old and new) has no solutions to the stubborn and persisting challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty. The old capitalist class wants more of the same old intensification of the exploitation of the working class, through casualisation, labour brokering and generally rolling back workers gains as they did over the past 22 years.

Whilst some of the new sections of the capitalist class want to play by the rules of the game (albeit capitalist rules), others are pursuing accumulation through massive looting of the state. They equally have no interest in the working class or in our organisations other than for purposes of capturing them and the state in order to enrich themselves.

Today we are saying to the workers of our country:

Let us mobilise in order to provide leadership in confronting the challenges facing our country. It is the working class that was at the head of the liberation of our country. It is important for workers to stand up now in order to defend our gains and drive an economic path that will create jobs. This is the beginning of rolling mass activities by the working class to place our demands and perspectives as part of driving a programme to realise a second, more radical phase of our transition.

We are also gathered to declare our support for a decisive ANC victory in the forthcoming local government elections. We firmly believe that it is only the ANC that is best placed to lead a process of a better life for workers and poor of our country. We however reiterate that we are not going to support candidates who have been nominated through the corruption of ANC processes. We fully support that candidate councillors must be approved by communities, and that this must be followed to the letter.

Honour and treasure the memory and example of Oliver Tambo and Chris Hani!

We are gathered here, on the eve of the 23 anniversary tomorrow, 24 April, of the passing away of President OR Tambo. Comrade OR died from a stroke two weeks after the unrepentant and unremorseful murderers Janusz Walus and Clive Derby-Lewis murdered our renowned leader, Comrade Chris Hani, in cold-blood. President Tambo was seriously affected by the assassination of Comrade Chris. There can be no doubt the murder contributed by no small measure in deteriorating Comrade OR`s ill-health culminating in his death. Comrade Chris held President Tambo in high regard, particularly for his sterling leadership of our movement.

Comrade OR led our movement during a difficult time. This was mainly the period of illegality, underground organisation and armed struggle. It was also a period of some of the most heroic uMkhonto we Sizwe (MK) campaigns like the Wankie and Sipolilo campaigns through which our movement sought to build a passage from exile to fight the enemy here at home. Comrade Chris and other combatants retreated into Botswana after waging a heroic fight in the Wankie Campaign, and they were arrested. After their release from prison in Botswana, they authored a memorandum, which became known as the Hani Memorandum.

The memorandum was robustly frank. It openly and directly addressed the leadership about the weaknesses and challenges that our movement and struggle faced. This was initially received with anger from within the ranks of the leadership. Thanks to the collective wisdom of our movement, led by President Tambo; the anger was redirected into a constructive way forward convening the watershed ANC Consultative Conference held this month in 1969 in Morogoro, Tanzania. That conference conducted constructive self-criticism. It adopted decisive self-correction and one of the most profound ways forward in the form of the first Strategy and Tactics document to be developed by the ANC and embraced by all alliance components ever.

As Comrade Chris was later to comment, President Tambo understood that he had the ANC and the rest of our movement to hold together in unity and cohesion; and did not form cliques or factions with anyone. In his own words during the opening address to the 48th National Conference of the ANC here in Durban on 2 July 1991, President Tambo said:

"...we did not tear ourselves apart because of lack of progress at times. We were always ready to accept our mistakes and to correct them. Above all we succeeded to foster and defend the unity of the ANC and the unity of our people in general. Even in bleak moments, we were never in doubt regarding the winning of freedom. We have never been in doubt that the people`s cause shall triumph."

Three most important lessons from these revolutionary wise words are: readiness to accept mistakes and correct them, placing the unity of the organisation above all else, and firm commitment to the cause of the people!

As we march forward in the context of the many challenges and difficulties that our movement and society are faced with today, let us take our cue from the revolutionary examples of our outstanding leaders like Hani and Tambo. These revolutionary leaders served our struggle to complete liberation and universal emancipation whole heartedly. They served our people, not their own private interests.

Let us serve our people: Let us advance and deepen the second, more radical phase of our struggle to realise complete liberation and social emancipation!

Let us unite and fight against imperialism - the highest stage of capitalism and domination by foreign forces, mainly transnational monopolies, oligopolies and the imperialist states that serve their interests.

Let us mobilise working class power to fight and defeat corporate capture!

But let us be categorically clear:

To allow regressive, reactionary and harmful tendencies such as corruption and corporate capture of the state and our movement to take root in our organisations and domestic policy is not to fight against imperialism. It is to open an entry door for imperialist machinations.

To allow factionalism, patronage, manipulation of internal democratic processes and gate-keeping to prevail in our movement is not to fight against imperialism. It is to weaken our movement. It is to divide it and prepare grounds for unbridled imperialist penetration.

The reality is that our country cannot drive a sustainable transformational agenda against established monopoly capital, both imperialist and domestic, if our capacity within the state and our unity within the ANC and the alliance have been contaminated by corporate capture - including the widely reported problems caused by the Guptas.

We must decisively tackle the problems of corporate capture, corruption, patronage, manipulation of internal processes and associated problems of division and disunity in the ranks of our movement and in government at all levels.

Equally important, we must decisively solve the problems faced by our people, the majority of whom is the working class and poor. When we declared in the Freedom Charter that the people shall govern, we did not mean elected public representatives and various bureaucratic arms of the state alone. We meant that the people, to emphasise, the majority of whom is the working class and poor, shall be the most important arm of the state, and shall, in that capacity, govern!

The importance of mass action, such as we have embarked on today cannot be overemphasised.

Let us deepen the struggle to achieve transformation of the financial sector!

Like all other important segments of the financial sector, banking for instance is dominated by a few oligopolies - Standard Bank, Absa (Barclays), FirstRand (FNB) and Nedbank - that together with a few other private banks form a private monopoly. There is also a multiplicity of micro lenders and loan sharks that, no different from the oligopolies, are also ruining the financial and social lives of our people. Sky-rocketing bank charges and interest rates are a norm that has worsened the levels of household indebtedness and financial exclusion in our country.

Later in the year the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) will be convening a financial sector summit. This is the second since the first was held just more than a decade ago. Let us together deepen our work to prepare for this forthcoming summit towards the achievement of transformation in the financial sector.

What are some of our demands and expectations from the financial sector?

We want the financial sector to end its investment strike and partner with government to invest funds in order to grow and develop our economy. We want significant amounts in the hands of the banks and insurance companies to be invested in the productive sectors of our economy. The importance of creating productive work to address the problem of unemployment cannot be overemphasised!

We want banks to invest in our townships and villages, in support of SMMEs, not just building of malls that kill small enterprises. After all, banks and insurance companies receive billions of rands from our stokvels and burial societies, but there is hardly investment in these areas by them.

We want legislation to compel the financial sector to invest in identified priority developmental projects.

We want the financial sector to invest in student housing for college and university students.

We want the financial sector to make resources available towards a comprehensive social security net, so that workers can have, amongst other things, decent but affordable housing.

We want an end to the corruption and collusion between some officials in our courts system and the banking sector who make papers repossessing workers` houses that are often auctioned for next to nothing.

Let us deepen the struggle to rollback deepening exploitation of workers by capitalist bosses, to achieve comprehensive social security and universal access to quality healthcare for all!

Comprehensive social security offering adequate levels of social protection is long overdue in our country in the context of persisting poverty, unemployment and retrenchments of workers by the capitalist bosses who exploit them. The bosses have also been aggressively restructuring not just the workplace but workers to maximise profit.

As a result, there are many workers employed under labour brokering, who are casualised, or who are irregularly employed under permanent temporary arrangements. All of these and other actions adopted by the capitalist bosses to deepen exploitation and maximise profit have manufactured increasing levels of social insecurity among workers. We must intensify our struggles to rollback these and other exploitative actions. We must continue the struggle to bring labour brokering to an end. We must continue the struggle to deal a blow to casualisation and perpetual temporary arrangements.

What are some of our demands relating to healthcare, infrastructure and transport, against corruption, and the building of a democratic developmental state with capacity to serve the people?

We want accelerated implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI), so that we can strengthen primary healthcare and create an affordable health care system. Our commitment to deliver on the NHI cannot be allowed to be frustrated by the private healthcare sector.

We must deal decisively with the expensive private healthcare system in our country; and that is why we welcome the current investigation into the cost of healthcare in the private healthcare sector. This must culminate in strengthening price regulation and reducing the cost of healthcare.

We want accelerated infrastructure and associated investment to create an affordable, reliable and safe public transport system.

We are calling for the strengthening and not the looting of state owned companies so that they can play the transformational and developmental role expected of them and contribute to diversifying and growing our economy.

We strongly endorse the commitments in the ANC Manifesto to minimise outsourcing. But we must intensify and lead the struggle for insourcing at local government level and in the public sector generally.

We call upon Cosatu unions to take a lead and not allow all sorts of opportunists to hijack this struggle as has happened in some of our universities recently.

The implementation of a national minimum wage is crucial as part of these efforts. This is one of the important objectives of the Freedom Charter. A national minimum wage has an important role to play in contributing towards addressing the problems of exploitation and income inequality.

Above all, one thing is certain, dear comrades.

We cannot win in the boardroom or in government that which we have not won on the ground and in our communities. Let us therefore deepen both social mobilisation and political awareness in our communities, at the workplace, in the terrain of class struggle through the battle ideas and everywhere else it matters, in support of the objectives of our struggle as a whole!

As the working class, we are on our own, for there is no other class to enforce our interests, to fight for the achievement of our aims, to advance our struggles, other than ourselves!

Let us recall the words of revolutionary wisdom by our revered leader, Comrade Joe Slovo in his popular pamphlet - `The South African working class and the National Democratic Revolution` - relating to our duty as the working class to fight and advance our own struggles even in the context of the necessity to form class alliances such as we have in the form of our liberation alliance. Slovo correctly asserts that involvement in alliances and minimum programmes with other classes does not - and must not - imply a dilution of workers` independent positions as a class:

"...when a front is created the working class does not just melt into it. It does not abandon its independent class objectives or independent class organisation. On the contrary, the strengthening of workers` independent mass and vanguard structures is even more imperative in periods demanding organised relations with other class forces."

Let us build peoples` power through local government!

Since 1994 the ANC has led us as the alliance and as a people through the government to implement the socio-economic rights that we streamlined in our country`s constitution. Let us deepen the progress we have achieved by ensuring that the outcome of the forthcoming local government elections continues to answer the pressing questions facing the working class and poor communities.

First and foremost these elections must be fought on the basis of a democratic mandate, based not only on the content of the manifesto we have endorsed as part of the ANC-led alliance, but also on the basis of democratically elected councillor candidates.

The ANC constitution, procedures and processes relating to the selection of councillor candidates, including the decisive role that must be played by communities, must be fully respected and followed. Any councillor candidate who may be imposed will create problems of legitimacy and plunge our moral high ground and electoral campaign into a crisis. It will be difficult to campaign for such candidates, who must be avoided at all before the process is closed.

Most of all let the working class take the lead in fighting against all forms of factionalism in all of our organisations! There is often a close connection between corporate capture and factionalism! Let us fight both, as the most immediate enemies in advancing the interests of the workers and poor of our country.

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